This trope is when The Protagonist — who is clearly not celibate — doesn't end up with the Love Interest. Someone else wins her heart or she has no choice but to marry someone to save her family or something. For whatever reason, the hero ends the story alone. It can be played either for comedy or tragedy. It isn't always a Downer Ending or a Bittersweet Ending, but it sure does tend to be that way.
Despite the name, this trope can just as easily apply to not getting the guy. Of course, the idea of a person being something to get, as if they're a mere possession to be possessed, can be troubling to ponder.
Related to No Romantic Resolution (the resolution here is: it didn't work out). Compare to Better as Friends and Romantic Runner-Up. Contrast Everything but the Girl, where the protagonist usually does get the girl eventually. Not to be confused with two leads not ending up together because one of them dies — that is a different trope, Death of the Hypotenuse when one of the leads is the hypotenuse of someone else, and Platonic Life-Partners where neither of them wanted each other in the first place. See also Netorare, a hentai sub-genre revolving around this, and Dump Them All, where the protagonist rejects all of his Love Interests instead of them leaving him.
As this is an Ending Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Films - Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Western Animation
- Disney Animated Canon:
- The Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which is featured as the image of this page. Unlike most of the lead males of the Disney Renaissance, Quasimodo doesn't end up with the woman he falls in love with. Namely, Esmeralda never learns of his feelings and falls for Phoebus, though Quasimodo chooses to accept that she loves him without issue. He eventually gets together with another woman in the sequel, though.
- At the end of Disney's Pocahontas, John Smith, severely injured, returns to Europe and leaves Pocahontas behind. As well as Smith being saved by Pocahontas, this is one of the only historically based moments in the entire movie and one of Disney's few Bittersweet Endings. Exacerbated in the sequel, where Pocahontas actually ends up with a different guy, the one she married in real life.
- That poor squirrel lady from Disney's The Sword in the Stone. She falls in love with Wart while he's a squirrel, but once he turns human, she's heartbroken.
- In Corpse Bride, Emily gives up her chance to marry Victor so that he can marry Victoria instead.
- According to Disney's Melody Time, this is actually the main reason why coyotes always howl at the Moon.
- In Rankin Bass' Jack Frost, the titular sprite is Invisible to Normals, but hears a beautiful girl named Elisa say that she's "in love with Jack Frost." Taking her at her word, he becomes human, but will only stay that way if she marries him by the beginning of spring. While she and "Jack Snip" become close, he learns right before the deadline that she's fallen in love with her New Old Flame, Sir Ravenal. He turns back into a sprite just as the pair are Happily Married.
- Shua in Sky Blue manages to bring down Ecoban, but thanks to Locke, it's almost certain Jay will die.
- Toy Story 3: Although Buzz Lightyear and Jessie, and to a much lesser extent, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head and Barbie and Ken, are now finally united with each other, Woody and Bo Peep aren't... at least until Toy Story 4. (At the very beginning of the film, Bo Peep was seen only in a flashback, and when Woody lists Wheezy, RC, and the other toys that were sold before the film, Rex sheepishly adds Bo-Peep to the list; Woody is notably sad because of this.)
- Amon Amarth's Concept Album Jomsviking has the male protagonist kill an earl's servant to protect his love from Droit du Seigneur and have to flee town. He ends up a warrior with the Jomsvikings and, in the song "A Dream that Cannot Be", returns to get his Old Flame (whose part is sung by Doro) and bring her into his new life. She tells him to piss off and then pulls a knife on him when he tries to force the issue.
- Rhett Akin's "That Ain't My Truck," about a guy in a Love Triangle who gives his lover an ultimatum to choose. He doesn't hear from her, so he swings by her house, and finds:
That ain't my truck in her drive
Man, this ain't my day tonight
Looks like she's in love and I'm out of luck
That ain't my shadow on her wall
Lord, this don't look good at all
That's my girl
My whole world
But that ain't my truck
- Bowling for Soup's "Graduation Trip" has this as a Bittersweet Ending. The narrator meets and falls in love with a girl on a four-day cruise, but they live in separate states, so the relationship fizzles out. This doesn't change the fact that she was his First Love, and what they had, brief as it may have been, was still deeply meaningful to them both.
I hear you're doing amazing,
and believe me, that makes me smile.
But I hope you think of me,
every once in a while.
- "7 & 7," by the Turnpike Troubadours, has the narrator pondering a failed relationship, and wondering what might have happened if he hadn't been "the boy who your mama warned you about."
That old scene is always coming to me
I see you standing with your husband and your child
And you're a picture of strength and grace and beauty
And me, I'm just a fool in a supermarket aisle
Well I know "hello" would surely end up awkward
I never had the knack for talking anyway
And you're not the kind for bending over backward
So I smiled and turned my shopping cart around and walked away
- Cyrano de Bergerac: Cyrano, Christian and De Guiche love Roxane. No one of them will get her. Roxane won’t get any guy too, because she's been Loving a Shadow. Even Raguenau is abandoned by his wife, Lisa. Nobody gets anyone.
- Peter Ustinov's play The Love of the Four Colonels is set in Germany shortly after World War 2, where the four titular officers — one from each occupying power — come across Sleeping Beauty's castle and fall in love with her. Due to the machinations of the good and evil fairy, none of them gets the princess — the British and the Soviet colonel return to their wives (even though e. g. the Russian one has in the meantime given birth to another man's child), while the American and the Frenchman have themselves put to sleep so that in another 100 years they'll have another go at wooing her, even though they just know that the fairies will ensure that neither of them is successful.
- The Misanthrope: Alceste refuses Célimène's offer of marriage because he's finally sure that she doesn't love him (or at least doesn't love him any more than she loves any man who pays attention to her).
- On a more comical note, Patience is subtitled Bunthorne's Bride. Guess who is the only male character in the play to end up without a bride...
- In The Playboy of the Western World, Pegeen Mike rejects Christy Mahon in the end. It's not a downer ending for him, though; he gets so much else that he's got a good chance of getting over the rejection — whereas she regrets her decision deeply as soon as it's too late to take it back.
- George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion, but not the musical My Fair Lady or for that matter most other Pygmalion Plot adaptations.
- The Student Prince: In a huge Tear Jerker moment, just as the titular prince is about to defy his father and marry the commoner he's fallen in love with... he learns his father is dying. He agrees to marry for diplomatic reasons, and takes up the crown, but goes to see his true love once more before he does.
- In Street Scene, Sam is crushed when Rose leaves him in the end, having decided that, after what happened with her parents, she can't let their lives be tied together.
- Sweet Charity. Although all signs point to the contrary, Oscar winds up leaving Charity.
- Jonathan Larson's semi-autobiographical play, tick, tick... BOOM!, has the protagonist choose between pursuing his dream of being a famous composer and settling down with his girlfriend Susan and a steady job. The stakes rise when Susan tells him she is moving away and wants him to come with her. In the end, he chooses to stay and pursue his dream, and they decide to be Just Friends, and for his birthday she gives him sheets of blank paper with which to write to her.
- A Did Not Get The Guy example: Kathy in Vanities. She apparently never finds another.
- Fate/stay night:
- Fate route: In the most tear-jerking way, Shirou has to part with Saber and life moves on. However, in Realta Nua's bonus ending of Fate they meet again.
- Two of the bad endings in Heaven's Feel result from the heroine of the route, Sakura, being killed while Shirou is still alive and well. If Shirou kills Sakura, Shirou destroys his remaining humanity to pursue Kiritsugu's dream; if Rin kills Sakura, Shirou is driven to despair due to previously surrendering his dream to protect Sakura.
- Galaxy Angel: Regardless of the route chosen, if Tact botches the choice before the last two missions, his chosen Angel will dump him, and he will leave the Elsior returning to his old job patrolling the borders. Subverted by the fact that this scenario leads to Chitose's route in the sequels, and they do get together at the end of the third game.
- In Get Dumped, no matter what you do, Michi will be unable to convince Arashi to stay with her and the true ending has her realize that she was Loving a Shadow.
- Can happen in Melody if the player steers clear of the romantic paths of all the girls.
- In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, Akane and Aoi flee Building Q before Junpei can catch up to them. He spends the rest of his days trying to find Akane. The sequel, Virtue's Last Reward, really hammers it in by showing Junpei as an old man, now going by Tenmyoji, still trying. Though he does succeed in this game, Akane is so far removed from what he remembers that he gives up on her. As for the third game, Zero Time Dilemma, which takes place between the first two... Thanks to time travel, the trope is finally averted and Junpei and Akane get together in the Golden Ending.
- Saya no Uta has two of the endings (the third one has them Together in Death):
- In the Asylum ending, Saya cures Fuminori's agnosia and allows him to see the world as normal, non-fleshy stuff again. But because she is herself a fleshy Eldritch Abomination, she decides they cannot be together and says a final goodbye while visiting him in the titular asylum.
- In the Bloom ending, Saya dies upon "blooming" and converting humanity into her species, while Fuminori survives.
- Katamari (a comic based on Katamari Damacy) had a story arc revolving around the Prince of Cosmos helping a man try to regain his girlfriend by rolling up a katamari of all the things she likes as a show of affection. However, when presented with it, she shows she's flattered by the gesture but lets him down gently that she isn't interested in pursuing the relationship.
- Despite the effort Shigeo puts trying to become someone his longtime childhood crush might be interested in over the course of the series, Mob Psycho 100 ends with Tsubomi politely but soundly turning him down. Six months later, he's over it and probably happier than he's been in ages anyway, since all the Character Development he had on the way makes it so much easier for him to stop withdrawing into himself and actually connect with people.
- The Phoenix Requiem ended with Jonas and Anya splitting over his need to become the Grim Reaper. Though the ending left it ambiguous as to whether it would stay that way for good.
- In Tower of God, this was how the Big Bad's backstory ended back when he was The Hero of his own story. King Jahad loved one of his companions, Arlene, more than anyone else in the world, but when their adventure went as far as Jahad was destined to reach, she chose another of their companions and turned on him. When he learned of their child, he turned Yandere and murdered the child with his own hands in resentment. King Jahad refuses to move on and marry any other woman. He has also resorted to absurdly murderous methods to keep things that way.
- Freddie Wong in the action short "Gun Size Matters," leading to a hilarious live-action version of Ocular Gushers.
- The Kindness of Devils: This is one of Hardestadt Delac's personal problems throughout the series. He's immortal, and all the women he's dated have either been killed during his various conquests or simply died of old age. Loves Lost And Found shows more than half a dozen of Delac's wives or lovers that he's had over the course of centuries, and all of them (except Erin and Eliza) all died off-screen at some point.
- Gender-inverted in Neko Sugar Girls. Raku's Love Confession to Hitoshi-san fails because he is dating Kidnapper-kun. Raku then dies due to her heart breaking.
- Red vs. Blue:
- While Tex does not die at the end of the series, neither is Church able to keep her in his life.
- Agent York of Project Freelancer had feelings for Agent Carolina. Too bad he thought she was killed by the Meta and he was killed before she was revealed to still be alive.